While many people enjoy the sleeping in while on vacation, Michele and I get up at our usual time (6:30) feeling like kids on Christmas morning, anxious to begin the fun. Recognizing that our companions were not likely to do so, we relaxed on our beautiful balcony over morning tea and coffee. By 7 AM each morning, a crew was busy cleaning and raking the beach. I went back into the kitchen for a second cup and found tiny ants all over the spoon on the counter that had been used to stir our drinks. Our itinerary called for breakfast at 8 AM, but calls to our friends went unanswered and by 9:30 we headed for Alexia y Geovanny alone (yes, that was 90 minutes of agony for me: must … maintain … schedule).
The Mercado was just around the corner and we found A y G easily. Each of the 4 stalls is very narrow and the seating is reserved for whichever stall you are directly in front of. I am not exaggerating when I call this one of the best breakfasts we have ever eaten anywhere. This was one of our top 4 meals in Isla and definitely “do not miss!” Michele had huevos divorciados, a pair of fried eggs, one with red sauce and the other green, sitting happily atop some tortillas. Beans and bacon on the side. This was the only place that served fried eggs with the yolks still runny. I had motulenos, which are like chilaquiles on steroids: a few triangles of tortilla cooked to just the right consistency—not too crispy, not too mushy—topped with a bit of refried beans, two huevos, ham, peas (yes, peas!) and cheese. Coconut rice with a slice of fried plantain served on the side. If I were on death row, this would be a good candidate for my final meal. Michele also tried Jamaica, a local drink made from hibiscus, which we felt had a flavor similar to cranberry but less tangy. I had OJ which I saw poured from a jug but was obviously fresh squeezed. Each of our meals was $45 pesos, and with beverages and tip the total came to $150p. Photos attached to my review.
This brings up the tip question: when a meal is this inexpensive, should you throw out the 15% rule and impose a minimum? After this point I decided that I wasn’t going to leave tips that amounted to less than $2 US and tip the amount that the server would have received at home for a similar meal. I mean, who am I, Rachel Ray?
While we had originally planned Tino’s ribs for Sunday lunch, I wanted to try cochinita pibil, Isla’s answer to pulled pork, which is also limited to Sundays. I knew it was available somewhere in the market and decided to buy some now and reheat it when we felt like lunch. I inquired at Poc-Chuc and was sent into the market proper, which is not as visible from the street. Walk to the opposite corner from A y G and you’ll find the entrance. Inside, we bought some fresh papaya and watermelon at one stall and asked again about cochinita pibil—the stall owners pointed us in the proper direction. The stall consisted merely of a meat counter like you’d find at a butcher shop. I asked, “Cochinita pibil?” and the owner pointed to a large tray of cooked pork. I asked for 1 kilo for the four of us, guessing at the weight of the meat and the metric conversion. Turns out this was nearly twice as much as we needed. The owner pulled chunks of meat right off the roast with his hands (no knife required) and loaded them into a bag on his scale. Then he went to a stove and added two large ladles of sauce. As he did so, I got a good whiff of the concoction and was instantly hungry again. He also gave us small bags of pickled red onion and some hot sauce. I asked about tortillas and was told, “Otre posada,” which I understood to mean the other aisle, where we saw freshly made tortillas coming off the press and being loaded, still warm, into paper bags, a tempting patina of oil forming on the outside of the brown paper. I wasn’t going to hazard a guess as to the weight of tortillas so I just indicated a stack size. The price was very minimal, something like 10 or 20 pesos. We left the market happy and full, stopping by a local store to stock up on cerveza, pop and chicles for the room. Got back to find a text message from our friends, left at 10:30, inquiring as to whether we were up yet.
Today was “chill on the beach day,” so we found some chairs and the Ixchel Beach staff planted some umbrellas for us, using posthole diggers. We had mango daiquiris from ComoNo, which can be charged to your room (but bring cash for tips), a frozen concoction that would prove to be the 2nd best cocktail on the Island. While we relaxed, XBLGF (see Vol. 1 for translations) single-handedly revived the Isla economy, stopping every beach vendor that passed. I waited until I saw a face familiar to me from TA photos—and old woman carrying a tray of pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seeds). I asked, “Are you Maria?” “Si, senor, Maria Lopez,” was her reply. I told her she was famous and she beamed. XBLGF told XBL, “OMG, he knows people’s names.” The pepitas, with fresh squeezed lime and a bit of chili pepper, were delicious and addictive. While on the beach, we saw our first topless bather (1 or 2 daily) whose bright blond eyebrows stood out so much against her sunburnt face that they were her most distinguishing feature—we dubbed her “eyebrow girl,” not topless girl. Paint your own picture.
By 1:30 we were ready to try the cochinita pibil. I couldn’t figure out the electronic cooktop (turns out you have to hold your finger on the “on” button for 3 seconds) so we just microwaved it. Our second home run of the day—a meal so delicious none of us even made it to the table. We stood around the steaming bowl on the counter, eagerly reloading tortillas, fearful that if we stepped too far away the others would have our share. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the pickled onion added just the right piquant flavor and crunch. The “F word” was uttered at least once by all four of us, along with suggestions as to what Tino could do with his ribs. We finally stopped for air and counted our fingers, just to make sure. DO NOT MISS cochinita pibil! I have photos of this feast but I need to figure out the new photo posting capabilities on TA so I can share them.
When the feeding frenzy subsided we went to snorkel around the Avalon bridge, having read that the snorkeling was pretty good there. The front desk told us it was easier and quicker to go via the roads rather than the beach. It was Sunday and we found lots of locals enjoying the beach. The water in this area is no deeper than about 3 feet. While Michele gave XBLGF some basic snorkeling lessons, XBL and I made a complete circuit, looking for fish. I saw a trumpet fish under the bridge itself, and there were schools out near the rocks, but merely sergeant majors, grunts and nothing dramatic. XBL saw a squid. I saw XBL pointing at a squid. We left after a while, unimpressed with this “better snorkeling area” and walked back along the beach. Spent a little time in the pool. We planned to try La Lomita for dinner, and as I heard it closed early I suggested we be ready to go at 5. We went to our companions’ room at the appointed hour but waited quite some time for them to be ready. Afraid it might be too late, we decided on Miramar instead, which had been on last night’s schedule.
Miramar has a great waterfront location and both inside seating under their palapa (why?) and also outdoor seating in the sand, right along the water. Cutting to the chase for TravelerNY: sorry to say, this was not one of our best meals. Initially, I was disappointed in the menu, with few choices, nothing that appeared to be an appetizer that 4 could share and only 2 ceviches. But when I asked about sharing some ceviche, the waiter asked if we wanted fish, shrimp, octopus or mixto, none of which were on the menu. We chose mixto, which was delicious. Michele had “lobster scampi” at $280p, which amounted to grilled lobster with butter and garlic on the sided. Tasty but slightly overdone. I had grilled octopus ($120p), very good, especially when I helped myself to Michele’s butter and garlic. XBLGF had lobster fajitas ($280p) which were very overcooked and contained very little lobster (see the photos on my review for evidence). Poor XBLGF, she now had overcooked seafood her first two nights, even though she specifically asked this time to ensure it wasn’t overdone. XBL had grilled squid ($120p) which drew very little comment from him. We had some strolling guitarists play some music, including “our song,” Besame Mucho. Miramar carries Negra Modelo, my favorite cerveza. Total bill was $1200p, just like last night, although we had fewer drinks.
We decided to “top off” at Miguel’s Moonlite, just to put DrGeo’s review of their pomegranate margaritas to the test. You were right on, DrG: this was the best cocktail all week! Miguel is an affable host, wearing what can only be described as a maniacal grin. When we went to pay, he had forgotten to tell us it was 2x1, so our bill for 8 delicious drinks was only $160p!
We strolled back along Hidalgo, running into our guitarist friend from last night and doing a bit of shopping. Went back up to the penthouse for cocktails, a dip and the beautiful view of Isla at night. Went to bed about midnight, very tired but also very satisfied.
Tomorrow: Disaster strikes!